tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT July 25, 2010 9:00am-9:30am EDT
dennis: as we begin our conversation, let me get a personal sense of you all. how did you react to the obama victory on a personal level? jerry, you want to start us off? >> well, i was quite happy in two ways. it's always good to have a campaign come to an end and to see who the next president will be because there are always new possibilities. and i think senator obama will make a good president. dennis: i have a feeling when we were talking about the two-year campaign that it was a blessing in disguise because it gave people an opportunity to get to know him do you believe so? >> i think so, absolutely. and it also gave time for the
issues in a way to be discussed for a longer period of time. dennis: chad, what was your feeling -- that thing came up on the scene that says president-elect obama? >> well, it's inspiring. it's a seat change for our country. talking to my sons, it was the first time they were ever excited about a presidential election. it's a change in a time we need it. but the issues we're facing in the country, we need that excitement. i think it's the excitement and the intellect of the man. i think he can do a great job. >> there are wonderful things about the victory of this is that he can have change. so that opportunity for the nation to embrace change and do some things that they needed to do is very inspiring.
dennis: change is tough, isn't it? for all of us just as human beings, right? >> progress is a nice word, but "change" is a nice motivator. dennis: deborah. i was really thrilled about the energy in the country. but the fact that the victory really showed the united states is a unique country, the diversity, people from all over the world. and again, the fact that senator obama became our president really showed the world that this is the greatest democracy. and we're going to build a new future for ourselves but the world too. dennis: any tears? any tears, just realizing that we were at this historic moment in time? >> i think we all had a little bit of tears at election time. dennis: -- >> well, it's interesting, dennis, that i arrived in south africa at 6:35 a.m. which is evening here in the states. and i found out who the new
president was when i got off the plane in johannesburg. and one of the things that struck me as so interesting was the reaction of the rest of the world as it was evidences in south africa. the taxi driver, the bellman, all of the staff were just thrilled, i think on several levels because of the significance in what that election sig any fide. by the way, i did vote absentee ballot before i left. but on a personal level, i think i'm optimistic because i believe the new president is a very smart man. and i believe that when he talks about constructive and respective dialogue, i think he's serious about that. and that's what we need a lot of. and it looks to me he's on track to pick some pretty smart people to advise him. and this gives me a lot of hope. >> this is a particularly personal election for me and for the university of chicago.
dennis: sure. sure. >> barack obama was a part of the faculty for a long time. michelle has worked at the university for a long time. for me and for many of my colleagues, this was really one of our community being elected president of the united states. beyond that, i'd say that there are two things that i found, treatmently important about this election -- extremely important about this election. first is the united states beginning to come to terms with its past by electing an african-american which is an extraordinary statement about the motion forward for this country around an issue that has been troubling the country for a long time. and the second issue is, as a -- as someone who's been a faculty member at the university of chicago for a long time, senator obama is a very nuance thinker.
the problems we faced as a country are extremely complex and demand a level of complexity of nuance and out this. and i think he will bring that to his job. dennis: if you're just joining us, this is a special conversation with six members of something called the "council on competitiveness." it's a group of business executive, labor leaders and university presidents who is have come to recapture our leadership position at home and around the world. sit tight "this is america." >> "this is america is brought to you by -- hyundai motor america, maker of the 2009 sonata. the national educational
association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the rotundaro family trust. the c.t.c. foundation. and the american life tv network. dennis: all right. everyone, let's loosen up, relax here and give it a go here. the country's in a horrible financial mess right now. it has been battered. it seems to suggest already that we're at some kind a cross roads. do you think so? are we at a cross roads in the country where we can either go back and try to fix things or we can kind of retool for the future? >> i left for japan in the last week of september, we didn't have a financial crisis. i came back a few weeks later, we did.
so this has moved very fast. i think it's a great opportunity for our country to apply the things we've been talking about in the council competitiveness. being more competitive, compete on the world stage, don't retreat but go out and compete as a country. dennis: debra, weigh in here now. we're talking about competition, competing, competitiveness. has america lost its edge? >> actually, this is one of the great times in history. we help great growth and prosperity around the world which is a good thing. but we have to rebuild our skills. we have to rebuild our investment in our infrastructure so we can compete with the wormed. i don't think we've lost it. but it is a time of change and commitment for our country. dennis: when you mention the word "ininfrastructure," do you
mean the bridges and roads and transportation system, a lot needs to be done, huh? and that can be an opportunity, crisis and the other side of the coin, opportunity. >> i think it is a great opportunity. i think probably the capital system needed a little bit of adult supervision. i think it's going to get that. i think it is focusing attention on what does it take really to -- to -- to build and rebuild this nation's great strength and infrastructure is certainly part of that. the real key in what we've been focused on the council of competitiveness is really defining the ideas and the synthesis of new ba basis of competition. dennis: what does that mean? >> we have to get new ideas. instead of holing on to the old infrastructure we have to
rejuvenate that with fresh ideas. surround it with the infrastructure it takes to support it. and let the inherent creativity of this country come through. dennis: what would be some ideas that need to be retooled in a new fashion? >> we have a particular focus at the council on energy security, innovation. dennis: this is your bag? you know it? >> this is my bag. it's a key part of that. there's infrastructure that relates to energy. and this gives us a time to invest in the recreation of that infrastructure. in that recreation that both enhances the resilience si and boasts that infrastructure. but also we have an opportunity to make changes to it to support new alternative energy sources to build more controlbility using new technologies into the
electrical network as well as in new actual energy sources. dennis: do you think you can go green? can you transform our whole energy picture which needs this transformation if you don't have any money in the country? i mean, the countries have a $700 billion bail out and people are with their hands out asking for more. how do you fix the energy transformation at the time when you don't have any money? >> i think two things -- one, is there is definite talk with the new administration, with the president-elect obama and his team as well as in the congress. there's a clear need for economic stimulus to help us move us beyond where we are. why not have that stimulus, focus on these investments for the future? and included in that are those things that help us to have a more complete and comprehensive
energy security picture, including investments in green technologies, investments in energy efficiencies and as well as helping existing sources of energy move through innovation to a more sustainable form. dennis: as the c.e.o. a huge mega company, a lot of the earnings for the big companies are flat. some of them are in the minus column, they're in the red column. there's not a heck of a lot of money for r.n.d. you've changed the complex of that company, haven't you? it used to be like a cement company or something -- it's a whole other world, isn't it? >> we could take that up at another time what we see is what the council's focused on, biotechnology and diesel technology is two of the
sciences that we're looking at. there's no reason why this country can't be the absolute leader if we open up and get the universities involved and get government research involved, big opportunity here. dennis: how are you going to get the opportunities involved? >> we're very much involved with industry that accurately been at it, been working with the tire companys that created acrin but that restriction led to the total trance tormation of an industry into one that is huge around the world -- transformation of an entry into one that is huge around the world. dennis: there's only two places for money, the government, the federal government because the state governments are hurting. some of the bail out has to go to them. and -- and corporations, right? business corporations. those are the only two places there is any money, right? >> in the university, there's also project philanthropy. and we actually have a very --
many of our institutions are devoted who actually contribute quite a bit to the research that we're able to do. just to go back to your other question, though, i would say that it's very important to think about the energy issue at two levels. so there's a first level where you're really looking int now o economically challenged particularly where shirley said that there are things to do that are linked to energy. it's very importance to develop a longer term plan, actually coherent and is a necessity going to take a considering amount of time, considering invest considerable amount of
time, considerable investment, considerable research. this is not a short fix issue. you really need to start developing a longer term, coherent, well thought out agenda for developing. dennis: you get -- go ahead. >> i was just going to observe that one point that's worth making the fact that the balance sheet, the financial strength of most of corporate america is actually in pretty good shape. the financial system has problems. but most of corporate america has pretty strong balance sheet and has the capacity to informs. when you talk about the money is going to come from, it's there. right now what's needed and what the council of competitiveness is looking at is the possibility of some kind of tax incentive that could stimulate that investment, not doing away with giving anything away. it's really a timing issue. for example, the repay
triyation back to the -- repatriation coupled with some accelerated tax investments could change the discussions that are going on right now. they're talking about deferring tax -- dennis: so you're talking about lowering the tax rate for corporations -- >> accelerating the tax rate is what we're talking about, moving the tax deductions up so you don't give them away. you just make them part of the stimulus package and tap into those strong balance sheets an get this thing moving. dennis: we're talking about competitive and the council for competitiveness. a person that's new to this whole idea, how would you describe that in a minute? who, what, when, where? i had mentioned university presidents, labor leaders, business executives, what's the goal? is it a think tank? is it a brain trust?
you've got a lot of fire power when you put these people together? a lot of brain power. >> obviously, this group is committed to understanding what's going on in the global economy and america. dennis: it is a global economy. >> it is a global economy. it's never going to go back. the thing that the council is doing is linking america's position in the world. what this means to every american citizen. dennis: what does it mean for everybody who's listening? >> it means that you have to have an education, you have to have skills and you can compete on low wage and low valued goods. dennis: the unemployment will go higher, will it not? do you think as far as the unemployment, i'm sorry, the unemployment in the country, it could go 7% or 8%, couldn't it? >> yes. there's a lot of retraining that has to be done for a lot of very talented workers.
when people say those jobs aren't going come back, that's very unpopular, but it's true. isn't it? >> very much so. they're not going to be back in every economy. critical to the council's work is how do you bring new skill labor into those new jobs that are being created? dennis: you've got to train a huge amount of people -- i thought you were going to get out on metro. can you come in close on this? tell me what i'm holding in my hand. >> you're holding our compete pass card. each of our major agendas begin with compete. this one is a pass through future prosperity through the training of young people as well as displaced workers that are having to learn new skills in order to compete for the new jobs that are being generated.
dennis: how does a person who's out of a job use this? >> the plan 245s we are advocating for -- that we are advocating for has a series of suggestions. i think what we're doing is collaborations with the companys that we work for. but indeed, america needs to refocus itself while recognizing that what has brought us to this point in our history as a major competitive force in the world is our differential rates of learning as debra likes to say and that we must stay ahead of the world in that regard. and to do that, we have to put forward some clear investments and incentives for people to be able to get those skills make them transportable an move them from one place to another. >> it's interesting that you raise this because we just came out of a joint executive committee. and what was very clear --
dennis: esis committee? >> what was very clear is that there were three areas on which we should focus. one has to do with key infrastructure investment as part of an overall package. energy security and energy related ones are key parts of that. they aren't and won't be the only thing that we need to make infrastructure investments but they are key. in paralegal is the key to have -- in parallel is to have the tax incentives that can unleash the corporate sector because there's more money there than any place else. and then the final piece has to do with the fact that we want to have people be able to make the migration from old jobs to new jobs, from old economy to new economy. that requires two things. it requires an ability to match people up with the skills they
have to where there are new opportunities. but it also means training people for new types of jobs and careers. and this is not just about the p.h.d.s like bob and me. it is about workers at all educational levels. dennis: so a long time ago we went from a kind of industrial age and we moved into that -- into a technology age. i think that that would be somewhere fair to say. are we moving into a new age? have you puts a name to it? debra, you're shaking your head like you have the $64,000 answer. >> well, i think yes. i think we're beyond the information age because it moved so quickly through the world. we're really at the innovation age of what you do -- dennis: so that would have been a better term "the technology age." >> it's more than technology. it's how you create value.
innovation is a very exciting process. dennis: so is that where we are now? and how are we defining innovation? >> what we're saying inventing things? >> no, it's a way you see a problem, you provide solutions, and that you create transformational value. starbucks took a commodity product, coffee and they created propositions so everybody in the world would pay $3 for some fancy con -- concoction. >> we've got the best solutions the grove has had to deal with. take that technology and solve
those problems. our proposals is about taking down the the obstacles to do that. dennis: do we have the skilled workers on a median level -- do we have the brains -- you look at china, you look at india, things like that. they're spending so much money to retract us, other countries around the world are trying to retract us. are we doing the same to attract what the world has to offer to bring them here to help us? >> this has been an enormous strengths. dennis: go ahead. >> there's been an enormous part of the united states for a long time in the competitive advantage of the united states that it has been a place that has been attractive to people from all over the world. an it's been a place that's been welcoming to people from all over the world. it's really imperative that we continue to do that.
and we really need to examine the nature of the immigration policies at this particular moment in order to ensure that we continue to have that type of engine and that type of competitive advantage. dennis: you had a thought. >> i was just giving a yes or no answer. and the answer is no, we're not doing the right things in there yet. and i agree certainly that the u.s. has had a history and a rich tradition of attracting the eyes of the world that have enriched this country. but that's changed i think in today's security-sensitive environment. i think it's overcorrected. and one of the initiatives of the council will be -- we're not complete with this yet, making concrete recommendations on immigration changes that will -- that will help us preserve that intellectual capacity inflow without
touching the electric third grail of job competition for jobs that really quote ought to go to america. dennis: we've got to secure our borders. we are living in a very dangerous age. but this subject about immigration people just freak about it, don't they? we've got to have some sort of solution. >> it's unfortunate because that's what's made america. all you have to do is go to ellis island and remember a little bit of that. those words are so true yet today that we should do just that. but i think we also see it in so many places. you know, gordon moore who started intel was an immigrant. i'm an immigrant. all of us are, earlier generations. but i think it's vital. and my colleagues are absolutely correct, the council recognizes that we mustards
those immigration policies that are presently keeping some very talented people from getting rapid access. and when it's the corporations and the needs that they have, institutions like ours, universities or many other areas we would have to open our doors to bring prosperity. dennis: i want to make sure that i thank everybody sitting around the table. this is the first part of a two-part, i guess we can call it a little mini series with the folks from the council. so we will continue our conversation in a few minutes and next week as the case may be. >> visit our website at this isamerica.net for online video and weekly podcasts. special thanks to korean air and the korea tourism organization.